Guineos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas)

 All rights reserved by Jose J Gonzalez

I believe that Puerto Rico has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world.  It lasts almost two months!  While its official beginning cannot be tied to a specific date (the week leading up to Thanksgiving, perhaps?), the end of the season falls around January 14th.  If the first day of Christmas is December 25th, and it ends on the Twelfth Night (Epiphany/Día de Reyes), we tack on eight extra days.  In these eight days, known as las octavitas,  people are still open to the idea of holiday themed meals and parties.  The octavitas are then stretched until the third weekend of January, when the San Sebastian Street Festival takes place.  This Old San Juan festival is a celebration of Puerto Rican culture: music, crafts, and food – all which happen to be key components of our Christmas traditions.

Falling in the middle of all the celebrations, Epiphany or Día de Reyes is one of our most cherished traditions.  Many countries observe January 6th to commemorate the revelation of Baby Jesus to all nations, represented by the Three Wise Men or los Reyes Magos.  To celebrate el Día de Reyes, I invited my family over for lunch last Friday.   I asked my sister to bring her version of the popular seven-layer salad.  My Mama and Tita (mi abuela) came over with appetizers.  I prepared a slightly different version of the green pigeon pea risotto and a king cake.  Eduardo and I drove to the friendly neighborhood lechonera for some roast pork and morcillas (blood sausage).  I also bought half a dozen boiled green bananas – a great shortcut for the  side dish featured in this post, pickled green bananas (guineos en escabeche).  These briny bananas balanced our very rich holiday meal!

Green bananas (guineos) are not to be confused with plantains, the similar vegetable used to make tostones and mofongo.  While their flavor may be similar, plantains are larger and starchier than bananas and always have to be cooked. Unlike ripe yellow bananas, which can be eaten raw, green guineos must be cooked before eating.  This is a great tutorial on how to to peel and boil green bananas, plantains and other Caribbean root vegetables.

Boiled Green Bananas

The cooked bananas macerate in an oil-and-vinegar brine with onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.  This quick pickling method, known as escabeche,  imparts a great acidity to the bland bananas.  While the guineos can be enjoyed in as little as an hour after they are doused in this velvety liquid, they get better the longer they sit.  This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a larger crowd.

Guineos en Escabeche

Pickled Green Bananas – Guineos en Escabeche
(4-6 side dish servings)

  •  6 green bananas, peeled and left whole
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns

In a large pot, bring up at least two quarts of salted water to a boil.  Add the green bananas and allow to cook until they can be easily pierced with a paring knife (about twenty minutes).  Drain them and let cool until easy to handle.  Slice the guineos into 1″ to 1.5″ long pieces.

Aromatics, Oil and Vinegar for Guineos en Escabeche

Meanwhile, on a large skillet or medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and the garlic, and sautée until soft, about ten minutes.  Add the vinegar, bay leaf and peppercorns and allow this mixture to simmer on low heat for twenty minutes.  Let the pickling liquid cool until it reaches room temperature, and pour over the bananas.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

16 Responses to “Guineos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas)”

  1. January 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I love learning about traditions such as this 🙂 Great post – I had no idea Christmas lasted that long for you! The dish looks intriguing and I’d love to try it – I may have to whip up a batch if I can find the right bananas or plantanes!

    • January 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      Plantains wouldn’t work here, unfortunately. If you can’t find the green bananas, maybe you could fry some plantains and top them with the vinegary onions and garlic! I’m sure if you talk to someone in the big market in Cleveland they could set aside a green batch for you.

  2. January 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Thanks for sharing a few of your holiday traditions, I’m fascinated by the pickled green bananas, if I ever make it to the Carribean I’m trying Carribbean root vegetables! Love your top photo;-)

  3. January 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Never had pickled bananas. These sound interesting!

  4. January 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Saw this on the Top 9 – Congrats to you. I love pickled anything but I have never had pickled bananas. I really would like to try this I am so intriqued by this recipe. Nice to meet you.

  5. February 1, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    I had no idea that green bananas were not plantains or just the green version of yellow bananas. Thanks for sharing that info! This recipe looks quite interesting and very different that anything I’ve ever had. That means I’ve got to find some green bananas because I’m very curious as to how this taste. It looks delicious!

  6. Carolina Zhen
    August 26, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    I have about 30 or more green bananas sitting in my front yard. I decided to Google “Guineos en escabeche” and this site showed up. I don’t have peppercorn but could try it with pepper, right? This looks yumy and the information is right on! I’ve never made it but will be today. God bless!

  7. December 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    wow, I love learning about these types of foods since I sometimes see them in the market and don’t know what I would do with them… ! I can’t wait to visit PR or the Caribbean for that matter, and try some of these dishes you are always talking about first-hand… 🙂


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